"Newspaper loses two…" (2/6/03)

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Bob Welch covers the 2003 retirement of Larry Bacon, the Register-Guard’s coast reporter who, as one of his first assignments, covered the Exploding Whale in 1970.

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Thursday, February 6, 2003

Newspaper loses two of the best

By BOB WELCH
The Register-Guard

Larry Bacon, in one of his first assignments as a Register-Guard reporter, learned quickly the dangers of journalism. In November 1970, he was nearly pelted with blubber that rained down when the state’s dynamiting of an 8-ton beached whale went horribly wrong.

Lloyd Paseman learned the dangers in a different way. As the paper’s movie reviewer, he was pelted with mean-spirited written and verbal blubber — some readers wanted him fired — after he dared rip the 1994 movie “Forrest Gump,” which later won six Oscars.

Thankfully, the legacies the two men leave as they retire Friday go far deeper than the two stories many readers might remember them by.

Combined, Bacon and Paseman — both 62 — have spent nearly 70 years at The Register-Guard. Bacon as our Florence-based coast reporter and Paseman mainly as an assistant city editor who, until recently, moonlighted as a movie reviewer.

In a day when newsrooms don’t look, smell or sound much different from, say, insurance offices, Bacon and Paseman conclude careers that began in the grittier times of clacking teletypes, Camel-puffing reporters and newsprint delivered on the backs of dinosaurs.

[elided]

In 1970, Bacon didn’t need to make any adjustments to the weather when he started the coast beat job in Florence, having grown up in Coos Bay.

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A University of Washington grad, he’s experienced the satisfaction and sorrows of small town coast life — the fun of building a source base that stretched from Astoria to Brookings and the pain of sometimes knowing the victims of accidents he’s covered.

“He’s given us a sense of where we live and who are with his stories of adventure big and small,” says Margaret Haberman, the paper’s city editor.

In nearly 33 years, Bacon seemingly did it all: sipped vodka with Russian sailors aboard a Soviet trawler as the first American reporter to board such a craft, interviewed Astoria sauna enthusiasts while everyone — Bacon included — wore only towels and, of course, broke the flying blubber story that Dave Barry biggie-sized.

“Being a correspondent means having to operate in a vacuum, but one of the joys has been editors who give you lots of leeway in what you write about,” he says. “It’s been fun.”

But now, he says, he’s worn out. And a 1994 bout with cancer made him realize he needs to “make the most of the days I have left,” which will mean more sailing and hiking.

Paseman, whose retirement helped clinch the deal for Bacon, echoes similar thoughts. Beyond travel and cooking, he wants to — guess what? — watch more movies.

Not that “Forrest Gump” will be among them.


© 2003 Register-Guard